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August 09, 2018 | Tom Ballard

Grow Bioplastics rebrands as mobius, making other changes

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, Co-Founders of Grow Bioplastics, a local start-up that recently adopted a new name – mobius.

“We’ve been in six cities and two countries in the last six weeks,” Bova told us in mid-July. The two were leaving the next day for the third and final week of Village Capital’s Food and Agriculture Accelerator in San Francisco.

“It’s the most detailed and most useful of the accelerators in which we have participated,” Bova said. The previous in-person components of the program were held in Chicago and Raleigh.

“They want to train participants to act like investors,” Beegle said of the accelerator and its focus on self-awareness. “We’re now not afraid to look at our vulnerabilities as an investor would.”

Their travel not only involved the Village Capital accelerator, but also a growing focus on international opportunities as both explained. Bova started first, saying that mobius has “some good partnerships in the wings.” Beegle quickly added, “A lot of it is international. We’re getting good traction.” Bova completed that portion of the discussion by saying that many of the opportunities are in Europe.

“We’re learning through these trips what exactly it is people care about that makes a difference for them,” he added.

As if the travel itself is not enough churn for a start-up, mobius is also in the midst of raising funds while also rebranding itself and converting to a public benefit corporation.

The Co-Founders said the initial name – Grow Bioplastics – would be too limiting as they evolved their thinking into not just a company that commercializes products that use lignin-based biodegradable plastics for agricultural applications but one that finds organic waste streams and creates value from those streams.

“We built a vision where the name pigeon-holed us,” Beegle explained. The name mobius is not only short and a single word, but it is also symbolic based on the nature of a Mobius strip or loop.

“It’s a two-dimensional infinite loop,” Bova explains. “If you trace along the loop, you’ll always come back to the starting point.” That reality is at the core of where the Co-Founders are focused.

“All organic waste started as a valuable resource,” Bova says. “As humans, we usually send waste to the landfill. We know chemistry and biology and know how to reuse waste.”

The new name also comes with a new tagline: “There’s wonder in waste.”

With its strong focus on doing good and plans to secure venture investment, it makes sense that Bova and Beegle would decide to shift from a Tennessee limited liability corporation to a Delaware public benefit structure. They emphasize that they are not relocating.

In addition, Bova and Beegle are taking it an additional step, focused on securing official certification from a global nonprofit named B Lab. The latter says its vision is that “one day all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the Best for the World® and as a result society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity.”

Clearly, that fits nicely with the vision of mobius. “Getting certified is a value-add for our brand,” Beegle says. “If investors get it, that’s what we want.”

Speaking of investors, mobius is in the midst of a seed round and has already secured an initial investment from the Clean Energy Trust. Mobius is one of 27 companies listed in the Trust’s portfolio.

Readers can see mobius is in the midst of a whirlwind of many moving parts, but that’s a good thing for the start-up.

“We are building our image and making a name for ourselves,” Beegle says.

Bova also cited continued support from Launch Tennessee which has provided the start-up with three interns this summer.

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